If you have suffered injuries in a car accident, you need a skilled personal accident attorney to help you seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. In addition to bodily injury, it is also likely that your car or other property was also damaged in the crash.
Facing expensive repairs and the inconvenience of being without transportation while your car is in the shop can make a bad situation even worse. However, you may be eligible to make a property damage claim to cover the cost or repairs or to reimburse you for a total loss.
At Jebaily Law Firm, our primary focus is personal injury, but we can give you guidance as you seek the money you deserve for your property damage. Dealing with insurance companies on repairs, a totaled vehicle, and rental fees or other expenses can be complicated, tedious, and intimidating. Follow this checklist for the smoother results.
1. Notify your insurance company immediately.
Some accident victims wait to be contacted by an insurer. Even if the accident was no fault of your own, don’t rely on anyone else to take action for your property damage. Call your insurance company right away after an accident to report the crash.
Time is of the essence in these situations. While your claim against the responsible driver is pending, your own insurer may handle your property damage claim on your behalf. At the very least, a call to your insurance company provides you with the specific details of what the insurer needs to proceed with your claim and what forms you may need to fill out to get the ball rolling. This includes the process for getting a property damage estimate, preferred car repair facilities, and how to determine a total loss, if necessary.
Remember that the fine print of your insurance policy may require you to notify the insurer promptly in the event of an accident.
2. Gather your documents.
After an accident, paperwork tends to accumulate. This material may include a police report, all insurance companies concerned, witness contact information, damage repair estimates and other information.
It is best to collect all of this information and to keep it in a safe place for easily accessibility. Make sure you also have your vehicle title and any recent maintenance receipts that may have improved the value of your vehicle, like a new tire purchase, engine or transmission work, or other upgrades.
3. Get repair estimates.
In many cases, the insurance company will send an adjuster to review and make a damage estimate to relieve you of this task. Make sure to ask your insurer how specifically to proceed, however. If the insurance company asks you to collect estimates, and assuming your vehicle is still drivable, find out if there are preferred repair shops.
Insurance companies often have contracts with body shops that can make payment quicker and more efficient, especially if your vehicle requires additional repairs beyond the original estimate. Keep in mind that you do have the right to pick which body shop repairs your car. If you prefer to use a certain repair shop, get the insurer’s authorization first before you commit to any work at that shop.
4. Determine if your vehicle needs to be replaced.
If your vehicle is “totaled,” that generally means that the cost of repairs exceeds the fair market value of your vehicle minus its scrap value. Some accidents may constitute automatic total losses due to safety concerns that cannot be remedied with repairs.
In the case of a total loss, you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle based on its condition immediately prior the crash. That may not be enough to satisfy an outstanding car loan. You will still be responsible for paying off the full balance of the loan in most cases.
It is perfectly okay to ask questions so that you fully understand how the insurance company arrived at the decision. There may be room for negotiation in the final payout.
5. Obtain payment and reimbursements.
The insurance company will likely have a procedure for how and when you will receive compensation for repairs or vehicle replacement. When you speak with them, discuss this procedure so that you understand what to expect. Double check that the insurer has your updated contact information so payment can be sent to the proper location, whether the payment is issued electronically or by a physical check.
Also determine if they will reimburse you for a rental car or loaner vehicle while you are without your own car and find out what paperwork they need in order to compensate you for that expense.
6. Ask your lawyer to review any vague or unfair terms.
Throughout the property damage claim process, you generally do not need an attorney to handle all aspects of your claim. Along the way, you will need to sign documents including a release to allow the insurance company to handle your claim, and releases to accept property damage estimates and to accept your property damage reimbursement, and so on.
If any of these legal documents appear confusing or unreasonable, let an experienced car accident attorney take a look before you put your signature on the dotted line to ensure that your interests are protected.
7. Ask other questions.
Every auto accident is unique, and all of your concerns may not be reflected by this checklist. You may wonder how the insurance company actually came up with the valuation of your vehicle, why they chose to total a vehicle instead of repairing it, or you may have questions about other details that arise.
Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to these types of questions. At Jebaily Law Firm, we encourage our personal injury clients to seek our help in the property damage claims process. Never let an insurance company push you around or fast-talk you into closing out the claims process until you are satisfied with the results. Jebaily Law Firm can assist clients with these issues as needed.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, you need the help of the most knowledgeable and determined personal injury attorneys in South Carolina. In the same way that you deserve to be compensated for your medical bills, pain, suffering, and other expenses, you also deserve fair reimbursement for your lost or damaged property.
At Jebaily Law Firm, we are always available for a free consultation about your accident, and we are happy to guide our clients in the property damage claims process as well. Call us now or reach out to us via live chat or by email.